Ford is investing more than a billion dollars in South Africa as it readies its operations ahead of the launch of the next-generation Ranger pickup truck.
The £1.05 billion (£770 million) investment in the Silverton Assembly Plant is the biggest in Ford’s 97-year history in the country. It also represents one of the largest-ever investments in the South African automotive industry, and is expected to generate revenues exceeding 1.1% of South Africa’s gross domestic product.
Ramping up production capacity from 168,000 vehicles a year to 200,00 vehicles, the Silverton plant will manufacture the next-generation Ford Ranger pickup truck for over 100 global markets. As part of the joint venture between Ford and Volkswagen, it will also be the production home of the next Amarok pickup.
Produced in South Africa for Europe, the Ranger contributes significantly to the success of Ford’s commercial vehicle business unit. The leading commercial vehicle brand across the EU in 2020, for the sixth consecutive year, Ford’s Ranger was also Europe’s best-selling pickup with a 34.9% segment share.
Spending a Billion
An initial investment of $686 million (£500 million) will see extensive changes made to the Silverton plant. These include the construction of a new body shop with the latest robotic technology and a new high-tech stamping plant, both of which will be located on-site for the first time.
The new stamping plant will produce all the major sheet metal components for the new Ranger, and will incorporate a blue-light scanner system that scans surfaces for imperfections, ensuring the highest-quality final product.
Upgrades also will be made to the box line, paint shop and final assembly to improve vehicle flow within the plant, along with the expansion of the container and vehicle yards.
Ford also will build new vehicle modification and training centres – the latter developed to ensure all Ford employees are equipped with the knowledge and skills required to maximize the efficiencies of the enhanced Silverton facilities.
“This investment will further modernize our South African operations, helping them to play an even more important role in the turnaround and growth of our global automotive operations, as well as our strategic alliance with Volkswagen,” said Dianne Craig, president, Ford’s International Markets Group. “Ranger is one of our highest volume, most successful global vehicles. This investment will equip our team with the tools and facilities to deliver the best Ford Ranger ever, in higher numbers and with superior quality.”
The new investment program builds on Ford South Africa’s Project Blue Oval renewable energy programme, which commits the company to use 100% locally sourced renewable energy for all its manufacturing plants by 2035, and achieving carbon neutrality by 2050.
Siverton’s first phase is underway with the construction of solar carports for 4,200 vehicles at the plant.
“Our aim is to achieve ‘Island Mode’, taking the Silverton Assembly Plant completely off the grid, becoming entirely energy self-sufficient and carbon neutral by 2024,” Cavallaro said. “It will be one of the very first Ford plants anywhere in the world to achieve this status.”
Modernizing our supplier base
Ford also will invest $365 million (£265 million) to upgrade tooling at the company’s major supplier factories.
“Supporting our suppliers with this new tooling will ensure we modernize together to deliver world-class quality for the all-new Ranger at higher volumes for our domestic and import customers,” Cavallaro said.
The expanded production will help create 1,200 incremental Ford jobs in South Africa, increasing the local workforce to 5,500 employees, and adding an estimated 10,000 new jobs across Ford’s local supplier network, bringing the total to 60,000.
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